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Meet our Book Doctor... Adam Kay, author of This is Going to Hurt

In our Book Doctor feature, we welcome a guest to prescribe just the right read for any mood or occasion.

Adam Kay, author of This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, has joined us to prescribe some brilliant books. 

I recently read a very twisty thriller (The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson) and now I am craving some more seriously twisty books. I've not found anything. Can you recommend a book to keep me on my toes, please? – Elisabeth

Who doesn’t love a book with a twist? You'll be glad to hear I’ve got a medicine cabinet full of them. For more twists than Chubby Checker playing Twister, work your way through Chuck Palahniuk: not just Fight Club (though you should totally read Fight Club) but also Rant and Diary. Then crack on with Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, if you’re the only person in the world who hasn’t already read it, Fingersmith by Sarah Waters and Atonement by Ian McEwan. I’ll see you for a repeat prescription when you’ve got through all those.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Sometimes I feel a bit stressed and I want to read a good comedy as a pick me up. I have been enjoying Terry Pratchett, but I would like to have a few more options of go-to authors for some comedy gold. Can you suggest any? – Sophie

Well, they do say that laughter is the best medicine. They’re wrong of course, medicine is the best medicine, but laughter certainly still has its place. Because comedy’s such a very personal thing, I’m often nervous about recommending a funny book, but I defy you not to fall in love with David Sedaris – When You Are Engulfed in Flames and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim would be an excellent starter pack. Personal favourites I’ve read countless times and had the same joy from every time are What a Carve Up! by Jonathan Coe, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend and The Code of the Woosters by PG Wodehouse. I could go on forever, but I’ve got a word count to stick to.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

How do you choose a book that is out of your comfort zone? I sometimes get into a book then get bored as it’s not grabbing my attention, and I feel bad for not finishing it. I love happy stories about everyday life, but nothing else seems to captivate me. – Helen

What’s wrong with being comfortable? You don’t throw away your favourite sofa and replace it with a load of elbows upholstered in sandpaper. Basically, read what you want, not what you think you should. If you want to explore further, then perhaps start by looking at the fringes of what you enjoy. For example, there are lots of wonderful books capturing everyday life but also with their share of sadness, rather than the fuzzy ones you’re currently reading. The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler, say, or Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. How about Toast by Nigel Slater or Kate Atkinson’s beyond-sublime Behind the Scenes at the Museum. If you’re getting bored by those then you should probably pop to your GP for a blood test.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

Since doing my A-levels, then university, and now working full-time, I've lost a love for reading which I once had. All my reading was replaced by journal articles and textbooks, and I want to know how I can rekindle that love affair I once felt with a good book. – Daisy

Oh no! You’ve gone full Righteous Brothers and lost that loving feeling. I suspect the key to getting that spark back might well be revisiting some of the books you used to read, and seeing if that jumpstarts your relationship with your bookshelf. Or how about launching into something wonderfully atmospheric and plotty like?

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton or The Secret History by Donna Tartt and immerse yourself in the myriad wonderful worlds that fiction has to often. And how about that modern classic, This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay? Ah, come on – you can’t blame me for trying…

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

What do you think the best genre of book is for reading at night when you want to go to sleep? – Greig

If you're struggling to sleep, then far and away the best genre of book for you is terrible fiction. Nothing like wading through agonising GCSE-standard swamps of turgid description to send you drifting off. I therefore prescribe any of the Dan Brown back catalogue. Find them in any good bookshop in the General Anaesthetic section.

(Editor's note: All opinions in the above piece (including any pertaining to Dan Brown!) are those of the Book Doctor).

Origin by Dan Brown
This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay

About This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay

Welcome to the life of a junior doctor: 97-hour weeks, life and death decisions, a constant tsunami of bodily fluids, and the hospital parking meter earns more than you.

Scribbled in secret after endless days, sleepless nights and missed weekends, Adam Kay's This is Going to Hurt provides a no-holds-barred account of his time on the NHS front line. Hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking, this diary is everything you wanted to know – and more than a few things you didn't – about life on and off the hospital ward.

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